Mauro Vegni, the director of the Giro d'Italia, has told Cyclingnews that Italian teams will again be given precedence for wild card invitations to the Corsa Rosa but revealed that at least one international team will be at the start in San Remo on Saturday May 9.
With only 17 WorldTour teams in the peloton in 2015, Vegni confirmed that RCS Sport will offer five wild card places to Professional Continental teams for the Giro d'Italia and Tirreno-Adriatico, with a total of 25 teams invited to the one-day Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Lombardy.
The Bardiani-CSF, Androni Giocattoli, Nippo-Vini Fantini and Neri Sottoli teams look set to secure places as they are registered in Italy or employ Italian riders and staff. The Colombia team is the favorite for the final wild card place but faces competition from Europcar, Caja Rural and UnitedHealthcare, who signed Daniele Ratto and Giro d'Italia stage winner Marco Canola for 2015.
Cyclingnews understands that the South African MTN-Qhubeka team is actively pursuing wild card invitations to the Tour de France and so are not trying to secure a place at the Giro d'Italia. Tour de France organiser ASO has yet to decide the five wild card invitations for Le Tour but these are expected to go to Bora-Argon 18, Cofidis, Europcar, Bretagne-Seche Environnement and MTN-Qhubeka.
“As usual, we'll announce the wild cards in mid-January. There will be five places this year after Europcar did not make it into the WorldTour,” Vegni told Cyclingnews.
“We're evaluating the request of every team that has shown interest for the Giro d'Italia and our other races. Last year we explained our reasons for selecting four Italian teams for the wild card places, saying that the Giro d'Italia would help the Italian teams in a difficult financial moment. That will continue for 2015. However we've also got to look internationally and continue to develop the Giro d'Italia globally. As a result I think one wild card invitation will be given to a team from outside of Italy.”
“I think we've got a kind of moral obligation to help Italian cycling, just as they do in France, Spain, Belgium and anywhere else. That includes the Neri Sottoli team. They won the Coppa Italia and they'll be judged like any other team.”
“The Neri Sottoli doping case was in the summer, not during the Giro d'Italia. And to be honest, the stark contrast between the MPCC position on Neri Sottoli and on Astana made me laugh. Mr Legeay (and his MPCC members) voted to suspend Neri Sottoli for six months but they only had one case of doping in 2014.”
Vegni pointed out that another team had damaged the Giro d'Italia with a doping positive.
“In 2014, there was only one rider who in some way damaged the Giro d'Italia by testing positive and that was Diego Ulissi of Lampre-Merida. He's still waiting for a final verdict, it's true, but why has nobody has talked about Lampre-Merida's position?” Vegni asked.
“Ok, it's a WorldTour team but why should we be strong with the weak and weak with the strong? That's not fair. The UCI rules say we have to give a place to the WorldTour teams. But why do they get special treatment when it comes to doping?”
“I want to be weak with the weak and strong with the strong. As a consequence, Neri Sottoli will be judged like any other team. They might not be selected for technical reasons but not only on their doping problems. That would not be fair.”